The Apology follows a recovering alcoholic whose daughter went missing twenty years ago. As she preps for her family's Christmas get-together, her ex-brother-in-law shows up with a massive secret. An opening drone shot over a secluded lakeside neighborhood as an evening snowstorm looms — the perfect tone-setter for The Apology and an analogy of the storms that come our way in life that we have no control over. They just show up, and we have to fight through them because that is what happens to both the leads in the film.
The Setup: The first seven minutes do something really well; it captures a sense of grief and loneliness in the main character's home. We meet Darlene, played by Anna Gunn, in the kitchen with her friend and neighbor, Gretchen, played by Janeane Garofalo. The two are finishing up some Christmas baking. Gretchen leaves, and we are left alone with Darlene. It is there that you feel it even more, someone who is alone and has lost something, and getting through the holidays can be tough. The simple shots of her shutting the house down for the night feel sorrowful as they go on, and they hit hard when we learn that she is a mother, now in her twentieth year of searching for her missing daughter.
Shortcomings: Enter Jack, Darlene's former brother-in-law, played by Linus Roache. The reason for Jack's appearance at her house is he was planning on surprising the family at Darlene's get-together on the day that followed, but his car swerved off the road nearby. The two begin a back-and-forth of reminiscing about the good times and memories. From here, the film moves more like a play —Jack and Darlene move from the kitchen to the living room, and back to the kitchen to discuss the elephant in the room — Darlene’s long-time missing daughter. From here, the film shifts into place, finally getting told the entire story without ever leaving Darlene’s house. That's when the roller coaster ride begins, and big decisions need to be made by both characters. Unfortunately, from that point on, nothing surprises you. Despite feeling for Darlene through Gunn's performance, it’s still hard to get emotionally invested in the story with the stakes being what they are. Obviously, tip-toeing around spoiler territory here, but we’ve seen this kind of thriller before. The Apology could be grouped with the rest of the holiday films on channels like Lifetime and Hallmark, except it's a dark thriller. When the inciting incident happens, we can predict where this film goes from there to the end credits. Not to take away from the stellar performances brought by Gunn and Roache — the film relies heavily on their performances (displaying possible budget constraints.) But in the end, the material doesn’t stick the landing.
Those who enjoy domestic thrillers will find this film to be comfort food.
The unraveling of the tragedy that plagues these two characters does strike a nerve, especially if you're a parent.
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